"Hear the colors, see the sound" has been the succinct definition game designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi swears by for "synesthesia," a point that's guided most of his games. I first heard it during a Rez retrospective at GDC a few years ago that Mizuguchi led, focused narrowly on his most popular, and arguably most influential, project. But this week, another of his games has been remastered and released again: Lumines.
Lumines is a lot simpler—or more complicated, depending on what genres you prefer—in theory than the likes of Rez or Child of Eden. It's a puzzle game that asks you to lock in blocks of four, chaining up multiple squares (or rectangles) of like-colors and patterns to build up a combo, Puyo Puyo style. It also is one of the few Nintendo Switch games to really embrace the console's HD Rumble, for better or worse.
The first true example of HD Rumble came at launch with 1-2 Switch, the elaborate tech demo retailed for $60 at launch for the Switch. You milked cows, could count the number of ice cubes in a non-existent glass, and more silly gimmicks were packaged in the minigame collection. And it was all thanks to the layered vibrations of the Joy Cons' "HD Rumble." Lumines Remastered takes HD Rumble to the next degree. It rumbles in tune with the music, which all rhythm games should take note on. But if you're playing portably, it's enough to make your hands go numb.
I spent this past weekend playing another HD Rumble enabled game too: Yoku's Island Express. While the rumbling is far less frequent, in the settings menu there are some handy options to lessen the vibration. I knocked it down to the lowest setting since I was playing it in portable mode, and my hands were grateful for it. Lumines Remastered, on the other hand, doesn't have a measure to lessen its rhythmic thumping. The only vibration options it's equipped with are "Rhythm and Blocks," "Blocks Only," and off. For "trance vibration" that bumps along with the music if you connect other Joy Cons, the only settings are "rhythm" or off. I can't knock it down to a lower degree of intensity; it's basically all or nothing.
And the vibration, no matter the setting you have it on aside from being completely off, is vigorous and loud. If you aren't playing Lumines Remastered with headphones on, then it's more likely that you'll hear the HD Rumble of the Joy Cons wrestling with its accompanied tablet above the music itself, which isn't prime for a rhythm-oriented puzzle game. The vibration is also so intense that I could feel it in my nerves, and even after tweaking with settings I could only play it for small sessions. It rumbled to a greater degree than Rez's Trance Vibrator, which was controversially used by some in the past as a, well, vibrator vibrator. (If you catch my drift.) It being a Mizuguchi game (now under Enhance Games rather than Q Entertainment), I couldn't bear to just turn off the vibration either. Despite its faults, vibration is essential to the experience. It's a lose-lose situation.
On the positive side, you can sync more than just two Joy Cons to Lumines Remastered to enact a frankly ridiculous sensory experience. Back during a preview event, our editor-in-chief Kat Bailey wore a Joy Con-studded belt while playing it. On my own, I rested two additional Joy Cons on my shoulders, only for them to vibrate so much they fell down onto my lap. I tried them in my pockets, but that just felt a little weird, honestly. I lazily tethered them to a lanyard, which made the thumping feel a bit better distributed, even if I didn't have a belt to strap them to. In the weeks and months to come, it'll be neat to see what sorts of elaborate setups players construct for it. I wonder if Nintendo Labo will even come into the mix somehow, whether officially ordained by Nintendo or not.
Lumines made its debut way back on the PlayStation Portable in 2005 in North America, and I can't imagine playing it in a non-portable way, honestly. That's what makes its Switch version the most desirable of the new remaster, as I'm probably the only person alive who is nostalgic for PlayStation's portable consoles.
Lumines Remastered is just the first game in the series, only with better UI and updated rumble support. Even if it's a little too intense, if the HD Rumble is able to take a chill pill somehow, I can see myself hopping back into Lumines Remastered for some time, chasing after all my friends with scores that are way higher than my own (I remain at the bottom, sadly). Let's just hope that one day, a version will exist on Switch that doesn't trick me into thinking I have carpal tunnel.